Justice for All?

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"In the U.S. legal system prosecutors may wield even more power than cops.

Prosecutors decide whether to bring a case or drop charges against a defendant; charge a misdemeanor or a felony; demand a prison sentence or accept probation. Most cases are resolved through plea bargains, where prosecutors, not judges, negotiate whether and for how long a defendant goes to prison. And prosecutors make these judgments almost entirely outside public scrutiny."

Jeffrey Toobin, “The Milwaukee Experiment”
The New Yorker
May 11, 2015

  • 95% of elected prosecutors are white. 85% of prosecutors run for election unopposed.
  • There are over 2,400 elected prosecutors in America - only 1% are women of color.
  • In the criminal justice system, prosecutors often wield more power than judges and the police.
  • In 14 states, all elected prosecutors are white.

About the Campaign

The Reflective Democracy Campaign works to increase the power of women and people of color in American public life through groundbreaking research, engaging communications, and catalytic grantmaking.  The campaign raises awareness of the racial and gender imbalance of our political system, demonstrates the policy impact of that imbalance, and seeks to address the structural barriers that prevent us from achieving a reflective democracy. 

In October 2014 the campaign launched Who Leads Us? with research revealing the race and gender of 42,000 elected office holders in the U.S. from the President down to the county level (available at WhoLeads.Us). Using that data set, we created the National Representation Index, an interactive tool that calculates the level to which white men hold greater power than other groups in each state. The campaign also conducted a national opinion survey that showed that a bi-partisan majority of the electorate supports measures to bring more women and people of color into political leadership. In June 2015, the campaign announced the Reflective Democracy Innovators, awarding grants to eight organizations and individuals on the front lines of addressing the structural barriers that perpetuate the unbalanced representation of our political system.

In the News

You Can Probably Guess How Many of America’s Elected Prosecutors Are White Men

Mic / July 8, 2015
By Zak Cheney-Rice
So white, according to a new report: An analysis released Tuesday by the Women Donors Network shows that 95% of the folks we've elected to make huge, life-altering decisions for us, including A) who among us gets charged with a felony versus a misdemeanor; B) who gets a plea bargain deal; and even C) how long we stay in prison, are white, often male and, in most cases, both.

White men make up 79% of elected prosecutors in US, study says

The Guardian / July 7, 2015
By Jamiles Lartey
White Americans make up 95% of elected prosecutors across the US, according to a study that cites the non-indictments of white police officers in the high-profile deaths of unarmed black men as the “shocking” reality of a disproportionate and non-diverse criminal justice system that relies on prosecutorial power.  

Report Highlights Lack Of Racial Diversity Among U.S. Prosecutors

NPR / July 7, 2015
A new analysis finds 95 percent of elected prosecutors in the U.S. are white. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative about what that means for the justice system.

Study Reveals Severe Lack of Diversity in Elected Prosecutors

NBC / July 7, 2015
By Emma Wilkinson
The Women's Donor Network released a study today on the scarcity of Black and Brown elected prosecutors. Fueled by the Black Lives Matter Movement and increased media coverage of incidences of police brutality, concern about the equality of the American justice system has been steadily increasing for months.  

Most States Elect No Black Prosecutors

The Atlantic / July 7, 2015
By David A. Graham
The overwhelming dominance of white men among district attorneys could have huge effects on charging, enforcement, and plea bargains.

A Study Documents the Paucity of Black Elected Prosecutors: Zero in Most States.

New York Times / July 7, 2015
By Nicholas Fandos
WASHINGTON — Sixty-six percent of states that elect prosecutors have no blacks in those offices, a new study has found, highlighting the lack of diversity in the ranks of those entrusted to bring criminal charges and negotiate prison sentences.